Friday, June 07, 2013

Jack Maggs

I read a truly great novel, recently.
Jack Maggs, by Peter Carey, my fifth of this author's books, and he has rarely disappointed me. I think Oscar and Lucinda was my favourite, and this last one, the second in line. He has won the Booker Prize twice, quite an accomplishment, and you need to read this one. Jack Maggs.
Jack is an ex-con from the brutal penal colonies of Australia, returned to London in 1837 to re-connect with, and explain himself to, his adopted pseudo-son Henry. And in the process he becomes the [honest to God, my cat is sitting on my back as I write this and I am painfully contemplating the necessity of getting him de-clawed]…. he becomes the footman to the neighbour next door to his son's residence. As it says on page 14, "Jack was not a footman." "Not", is an understatement. 

He is to footmen, what kings are to kings, in the movie starring John Goodman, called King Ralph. Basically, he has no clue what he is supposed to do. All his actions are pretence, at best.
His real mission is to re-connect with his son while remaining incognito, and in the process, he is thoroughly psychoanalyzed by a Charles Dickens-like author named Tobias Oates, who performs "magnetism" [hypnotism] on unsuspecting Jack, and finds out all his subconsciously held secrets -- for the sole purpose of writing a novel about the criminal mindset. The maid, Mercy Larkin, informs Jack of what is going on while he is all looped out.  Do they fall in love with each other or anything? Like as if I am going to tell you!
But I will tell you this -- the 91 chapters of this book -- almost deliberately short, will have you flipping the pages to see what happens next.
I loved it, and I highly recommend Jack Maggs to all my own readers. Especially if you like all that foggy old London-stuff [which I do]… people always walking around in a fog, and more things happening than any one person can see at any one time -- unless you have a really good narrator, like Peter Carey, guiding you through the mist.



Alyce said...

I haven't heard of this author, but your high recommendation means I will look him up. The part that made me stop to comment was the bit about the cat - made me laugh out loud. My cat and I have an ongoing battle over the center of our futon. She likes to sit on the back of it and whip her tail into my face. And she knows that it ticks me off, and then attacks my hands when I try to move her. She probably thinks it's a fun game. :)

Stefanie said...

I've had this book on my shelves for years. got it for my husband as a birthday present. He hasn't read it yet and neither have I. But it sounds so good! So I'll have to be sure to find it and get to it!